New York Times Column Calls for Action in Case of California Death Row Inmate and Orrick Pro Bono Client Kevin Cooper


In this lengthy New York Times column set to be published Sunday, Nicholas Kristof details the compelling case of California death row inmate Kevin Cooper and the evidence assembled by an Orrick pro bono team over the past 14 years that points toward his innocence. The article, “Was Kevin Cooper Framed For Murder?” calls on California Gov. Jerry Brown to grant Cooper’s plea for advanced DNA testing of evidence that could be decisive in exonerating him.

Orrick Senior Counsel Norman Hile has led the effort to free Cooper from death row. In February 2016, our team filed a lengthy clemency petition with Gov. Brown, including the request to conduct the DNA testing. The demand for the DNA testing has received strong backing from major justice organizations and California’s leading law school deans. In urging Brown to allow the testing, Kristof wrote: “We aspire to be a nation where all are equal before the law, and if we execute a man in so flawed a case without even bothering to test the evidence rigorously, then a piece of our justice system dies along with Kevin Cooper.”

Norm told the Times that he volunteered to handle Cooper’s case because he fiercely believes in his innocence. “Kevin got convicted because they framed him and because he didn’t have a half-decent defense,” he told Kristof.

In addition to Norm, the Orrick team working on Cooper’s case has included Katie DeWitt, Justin Giovannettone, Max Mellenthin, Beth Morey, Mary Dyess, Heather McCulloch, Trudy Harris, Charles Tyler, Aditi Sherikar, Claudia Chicas, Rene Kathawala, Evan Rose, Sean Fitzpatrick and Angel Soriano.

Update: On July 11, 2018, Kristof published a follow-up opinion piece in which he noted that, thanks to the newfound attention brought to the case, advanced DNA testing may soon be allowed to proceed.